Yoga instructor Kathy Spottek interacts with the goats at Purpose Farm. “They’re so cute. They’re like big dogs,” she said.
By Sarah Hall
It sounds wild, but goat yoga is a thing — and soon you can do it in Central New York.
Goat yoga is basically regular yoga, practiced outside while goats meander around. Purpose Farm, a Baldwinsville nonprofit that connects abused and neglected children with rescued animals, will offer the unconventional activity this summer as a fundraiser to support its programming. The first few dates are already sold out, with a total of 90 tickets sold to people who can’t wait to do the downward dog with pygmy goats Cain, Abel and Rex.
Goat yoga got its start at No Regrets Farm in Albany, Oregon, after a visitor at a charity event suggested owner Lainey Morse host yoga classes outdoors on the picturesque grounds.
“I said okay,” Morse told CNN, “but the goats have to join in.”
Surprisingly, goats and yoga go well together. Goats are very social animals who love people, and the practice of yoga, known to be therapeutic, is enhanced with the presence of the animals. The unusual concept was a hit — soon the waiting list for goat yoga sessions at Morse’s farm was hundreds of names long. And it’s catching on throughout the country, with goat yoga sweeping through California, Virginia, Arizona and Florida.
Purpose Farm is the first in Central New York to offer goat yoga — though Seabrook said she nearly brushed off the idea when she first heard about it.
“I was giving a tour and a man said, ‘You should do goat yoga to raise funds,’” she said. “[My daughter] Raven and I thought he was crazy. Then we googled it to find out it’s all the rage. Who knew?”
Seabrook reached out to Stefanie Heath and Emily Doucet for help. Heath is the founder of Cuse Pit Crew and the food policy coordinator for the New York state chapter of the Humane Society of the United States; Doucet is active in Cuse Pit Crew and co-founded the Patience Project, a Facebook page that helps highlight dogs that have spent an extended period of time in shelters. Both are active supporters of Purpose Farm and other animal-related charities in Central New York. Doucet suggested a friend, Kathy Spottek, who could instruct such a class at the farm. Spottek was happy to help.
“I wanted to do it because I wanted to give my time and energy towards… fundraising and… creating awareness of Purpose Farm, and maybe yoga, too,” said Spottek, who will be volunteering her services free of charge so that all proceeds can go to the farm. “I’m not officially associated with a studio right now, but if this piques someone’s interest, I can direct them to one of the studios in town.”
While Spottek has been teaching yoga for three years and has worked with a number of local studios, she’s never taught yoga with goats before.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” she said. “Goats are naturally nosy, and with that many people, I just don’t know what to expect. So I’ll have hope for the best but be prepared for anything.”
Spottek said the addition of goats to the class made it an ideal setting for those who might have been too nervous to try yoga in the past.
“People have contacted me and said, ‘I’d love to try yoga, but I have never done it. I have no experience.’ This is a great opportunity because you don’t have to have any experience,” she said. “No one cares if you can even touch your toes. Some people are so self-conscious, but no one will be looking at you. Everyone will be looking at the goats.”
“It’s impossible to take yourself too seriously when there’s a goat in the room, so even people who have never tried yoga will feel comfortable going and giving it a try and laughing at themselves — and the goats,” she said.
That pledge has proven very attractive — the first three dates, June 24, July 8 and July 15, sold out just days after being announced. Thirty tickets will be sold at $25 each for 9 a.m. July 29, and more dates will be available soon.
“We’re taking it as it comes,” she said.
She said the farm is also considering pig yoga — but they’re sticking with goats for now.
“The goats just make you feel good all over,” Seabrook said. “You’ll leave, as Emily said, saying, ‘That was the best morning ever!’”
Most importantly, proceeds from goat yoga benefit the farm’s mission, which is to pair youth ages 6 to 18 who have experienced neglect or abuse with animals who have come from similar backgrounds.
In doing so, Seabrook and her family, who run the farm, hope to help both populations heal. The services are provided free of charge, thanks to donations from the community and programs like this one.
“Building relationships is what we’re about. What a better way to bring people from the community together while raising funds?” she said. “The goats get a play day as well and the other animals get visitors for the day. It all a win-win!”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.